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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 20th August 2019

The week ahead in Africa: Sudan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa

Patrick Smith

This week we start with a new government in Sudan, then one in Nigeria, and then to Zimbabwe's economic and political crises. The propaganda battle over China's Huawei intensifies, new warnings about the severity of Southern Africa's drought and a controversial plan to leverage South Africa's pension funds.

NEXT STEP TO SUDAN'S NEW ORDER: After civilians and generals sign power-sharing deal, women and regional leaders raise questions

More tough negotiations to set up the power-sharing government are due this week after Ahmed al Rabie for the opposition coalition and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo for the military signed the key constitutional declaration in Khartoum on 17 August with the leaders of Ethiopia and South Sudan in attendance.

The next stage – launching the 11-member national sovereign council, the highest ruling body in the new order – has been delayed until tomorrow (21 August). The military and the civilian opposition each choose five members for the council over the 39-month transitional period. The military nominates a civilian as the eleventh member for the first 21 months, then the opposition is due to nominate the eleventh member for the final 18 months.

Spokesman Lieutenant-General Shams el din Kabbashi says that the leader of the Transitional Military Council Lt Gen Abdel Fattah Burhan, will sit on the council, along with his deputy Hamdan, also known as Hemeti, and Lt Gen Yassa al Attah. He didn't disclose the other two military officers nominated for the council, nor the military's choice of the eleventh member.

Some activists say that the nominees of the main opposition alliance, the Forces of Freedom and Change – Aisha Mousa, Siddig Tower, Mohamed el Faki Sulieman and Hassan Sheikh Idris – should have included more women and leaders from outside Khartoum. Two leaders from factions of the opposition Sudan Liberation Movement complain proposals to include regional representatives on the council were ignored.

Once the membership of the sovereign council is agreed, the next step is to establish the council of ministers in which all positions bar the defence and internal affairs portfolios are to be held by civilians. The opposition coalition has proposed Abdallah Hamdok, a former deputy head of the UN's Economic Commission for Africa, as Prime Minister.

PRESIDENT BUHARI HOSTS MINISTERIAL RETREAT: New government to be inaugurated tomorrow as oil prices dip and central bank governor woos foreign investors

Against a backdrop of harsher economic conditions – falling demand for Nigeria's oil and lower world prices – the new ministerial team is attending a retreat due to end today (20 August). After that President Muhammadu Buhari will announce their portfolios and swear them in.

Much interest will focus on the key economic and security portfolios as pressure is mounting on revenues and the capacity of the armed forces to respond to multiple conflicts.

Over the past four months, in the absence of a new government, central bank governor Godwin Emefiele has taken the lead on economic policy. Last week he was in London, urging fund managers to return to the local currency market in Nigeria, boosting foreign reserves in the process.

This follows a warning by President Buhari that the central bank would no longer make available foreign exchange at the government's preferential exchange rate for food imports because the country's agricultural boom had made it self-sufficient. Instead, the country's forex would be channelled into projects that promoted diversification and industrialisation.

PROTESTORS PLEDGE TO REGROUP IN ZIMBABWE: After courts and security forces thwart demonstrations, oppositionists promise to step up pressure on the Mnangagwa government

A battle of wits between President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government and its opponents is building up after street protests were banned in Harare and Bulawayo, the country's second biggest city and an opposition stronghold. Activists say the government's austerity policies and new currency combined with the worst drought for three decades are devastating the already fragile economy.

Although the opposition Movement for Democratic Change said it would respect the court ban on its planned demonstrations, activist groups say they are determined to find other ways to press demands for a government of national unity to deal with the deepening crisis.

Last week, civic groups reported that that several activists were abducted from their homes at night and beaten.

Despite the court ban on demonstrations, some activists went on the streets and were met with tear gas and police batons, with dozens arrested.The MDC faces criticism for its cautious response which has left it lagging behind more radical political groups.

At its regional summit, the Southern African Development Community, chaired by Tanzania, called for the United States and European Union to end sanctions on Zimbabwe.

NEW CLAIMS AGAINST CHINA'S TECH GIANT: The battle for Africa's cyber-space heats up as Huawei accused of helping Uganda and Zambia to spy on dissidents

As China's Huawei rejects reports in the New York daily, Wall Street Journal, that it has helped African governments to spy on their opponents, the company is stepping up its commercial campaign on the continent. Huawei wants to entrench its dominant position in Africa's telecoms and internet services as the continent start to establish 5G networks.

The report claimed that President Yoweri Museveni's government used Huawei spyware to disrupt the concerts by oppositionist Bobi Wine. It is the latest embarrassment for the firm which is at the centre of trade battle after the US threatened sanctions against it, accusing it of colluding with Beijing in espionage.

Yet so far Huawei is winning in the trade-off between technology and lower prices on one hand and accusations of political collusion with Chinese state security on the other.

SOUTHERN AFRICA'S WORST DROUGHT IN 30 YEARS: Zambia's President Lungu shrugs off crisis as prices spiral and over two million face food insecurity next year

It may be the worst drought in a generation but President Edgar Lungu's government insists that it will not 'beg' for assistance nor declare a national emergency.

A report by the Southern Africa Development Community forecasts that 2.3 million Zambians will face chronic food shortages by next March after the driest year since 1981.

Maize prices have risen by over 40% in a year in Zambia, pushing inflation to almost 9%, its highest in three years. On Friday, Fitch ratings warned that the Bank of Zambia would have to raise interest rates to curb inflation.

The drought will also hit Zimbabwe and Mozambique, where any food shortages will put pressure on corn and cereal prices.

TAKING ON PENSION FUNDS IN SOUTH AFRICA: Ministers mull ways of using local savings rather than foreign funds to bail out state companies

The African National Congress says it is looking at ways to use some of the 6 billion rand (US$391 mn) in local private and public pension funds to finance the country's struggling state-owned enterprises. This moves comes as some economists suggest the crisis at the state-owned power company Eskom could force the government to seek a bail-out from the International Monetary Fund.

Enoch Godongwana, leader of the ANC's economic transformation sub-committee, is pushing the pension fund idea but will face stern opposition from trade unions and fund managers given the government's battered credibility.


CONTINENTAL ECONOMIC STORM: African Development Bank warns that US-China trade wars and Brexit are raising the risk to Africa's economies by the day

FALLOUT FROM GHANA'S BANKING CLEAN UP: Over 70,000 hit as market regulator closes 23 savings and loans companies accused of abuses and breaching capital rules

KENYA MAY TRY ANOTHER REFERENDUM: President Kenyatta and opposition leader Odinga may call national vote on a return to parliamentary system